Pyrite — perhaps better known as “fool’s gold” for its yellowish metallic appearance — is a common, naturally occurring mineral. It holds promise as a high-tech material, with potential uses in solar cells, spintronic devices and catalysts, but is also a byproduct of corrosion of steel in deep-sea oil and gas wells. Both its potential usefulness in devices and its role in corrosion are largely influenced by the fundamental electronic properties of its surface — which have remained relatively unexplored.
But a team of MIT researchers has now found a way to probe these elusive surface properties for the first time. Their findings are reported in the journal Surface Science, in a paper by professors Bilge Yildiz and Krystyn Van Vliet and graduate students F. William Herbert and Aravind Krishnamoorthy. “The surface of this material is very different from the bulk, something that is common for many materials,” Yildiz explains. “The bulk has been widely characterized, but when it comes to the surface, there is only a small amount of data, and it’s not consistent.” Read the rest of the article on MIT News. Photo by Justin Knight.